When you’re a business of just one person, creating the appearance of a significant, established brand can seem difficult. You don’t have the resources of a larger company—and you can’t exactly lie to people and pretend that you’re more than one person. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put forth a professional image.
Here are 7 helpful methods you can use to give people a better impression of your freelance business.
You’re unlikely to get very far as a freelancer without some form of online portfolio. You don’t need to design an entire website from scratch; many sites designed to help you create a portfolio already exist.
If you’re an established professional, you can use sites such as Behance or Dribble. With these sites, crafting your online portfolio is as simple as uploading files and adding your contact information.
If you’re a student and just getting started, set up your portfolio on Boonle as it is for students only.
Don’t feel like you need to include absolutely every piece of work that you’ve ever created; that will only confuse the recipient, and much of your older work probably isn’t representative of your current skill and expertise. Instead, pick out your most impressive, eye-catching pieces and make sure they are prominently placed.
Consider including a “backstory” with each piece in your online portfolio to provide context and other details. Make sure the portfolio is simply designed and easy to navigate. Note that most online portfolios also include a “biography” section where you can include more information about your personal background.
Social Media Presence
You’d be hard pressed to find many people who aren’t on social media—which makes it one of the simplest ways to reach people and give your business a professional look. That doesn’t mean you should create an account on any and every social media network you can think of. You can’t possibly maintain all of those platforms at once, at least not if you want the things you post to be distinctive and substantial.
Instead, identify the social media platforms that are most important to your business. If you’re a photographer, for instance, you’ll likely want some sort of presence on Instagram or Tumblr. Just like with your online portfolio, make sure you’re only posting the materials that you’re most proud of. Don’t overflow your feed with cheap inspirational quotes or other filler; offer something of substantial value. As always, make sure you keep your social media voice and visuals consistent with the rest of your brand.
This may go without saying, but make sure you don’t post anything to your business’s social media account that is degrading to a person or group of people (with certain exceptions; insulting members of a bigoted hate group, for instance, may actually be in line with your brand).
You should also avoid posting things that aren’t directly related to your business. It’s okay to comment on a recent event or social issue, just as long as it aligns with your brand’s values.
Business Email Address
Email accounts obtained through sites like Gmail are convenient and easy to set up, but they look awfully generic. Consider setting up an email address branded with your freelance company’s name. If your business doesn’t have a name of its own, you may want to use your own name, such as “firstname.lastname@example.org”. There are many sites that make setting up a business email simple and easy to do.
This helps to create the impression that you’re a professional with access to substantial resources, and who cares about their personal branding (rather than just a random person at a computer who doesn’t take their work seriously).
Anytime you need to send a colleague or potential client a letter or present them with a contract, professional-looking branded stationery goes a long way towards enhancing your image. Invest a good amount of time into your letterhead design. If it looks haphazard or rushed, it could damage the recipient’s impression of you.
Consider creating binders with your personal logo and placing examples of your work inside. These are especially useful when meeting a potential client in person. You can give them your work samples in one simple, convenient package—and the binder will serve as a reminder of your brand well after the meeting is over.
If you lack design experience, you may want to get in touch with a professional designer and ask for help creating your printed marketing materials. They’ll be able to assist you in designing envelopes, binders, folders, or other types of collateral.
Direct mail is still a thing and is more personal than most other forms of marketing, which makes it a great way to engage potential clients on an emotional level. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to send a handwritten letter (though if that’s feasible for you, it’s not a bad idea).
Different types of businesses call for different forms of direct mail marketing. Some might send sales letters out to prospects, while others might distribute catalogs, newsletters, or even packages with product samples.
Depending on what type of freelancer you are and how you typically find clients, you may want to create postcards and send them to your community. These could act as reminders to place an order, an update about a new product or service you offer, or even a seasonal holiday greeting. Sometimes something genuine and heartfelt can go a long way towards building trust and rapport.
Testimonials are valuable because clients are more willing to trust their own peers than a faceless business they barely know. It’s one thing to say your own work is good, but a recommendation from one of your previous clients is something else entirely.
Testimonials can take the form of personal recommendations via word-of-mouth, or they could be online reviews. If you don’t have any testimonials readily available, reach out to your best clients and ask them to write one. It’s best to do this with recent customers because their experience with you is still fresh in their mind. Be sure to follow up again later—both with clients who didn’t respond to your request and those who did (and might want to provide more testimonials in the future).
Consider highlighting your favorite testimonials on your website, social media feed, or even within your portfolio. If possible, include a name, date, and photo of the client.
Staying on top of the latest, cutting-edge technology can be a great way to show clients that you’re relevant and professional. Try using an app such as Freshbooks to create and send invoices. This is especially handy if you don’t have graphic design skills of your own; it will look much more professional than something you quickly typed up in Microsoft Word.
You may also want to use specialized software such as Uberconference to keep in touch with your clients. It allows you to keep track of all participants on a call and even add your own hold music, which can help create the impression that you’re a larger business than you actually are.
Do you have any tools or techniques that you use to improve the image of your freelance business? Share them in the comments below!